In the past few months, there has been a renewed understanding of just how important product is for the success of a company. But some companies still think they can take shortcuts to great products. It can't be done.
I was talking recently with an executive from a Japanese automaker. I found it remarkable that the company's basic philosophy has stayed exactly the same for decades. Year after year, it continues to understand what is important. It constantly works to improve what is already the benchmark.
You can't have a short-term solution that changes with every breeze, and the basic philosophy has to endure when profits are lean or nonexistent.
You might not want to spend money while your company is losing it. Yet without that commitment, your company may have highs and lows, but it never will achieve stardom.
Today's automobile manufacturer faces massive challenges. It's a tough world out there. And although the economy seems to be getting better by the day, it will be a while before we can say that this recession is history.
Meanwhile, it takes a strong executive and an even stronger company to understand that some parts of the company cannot be cut. If they are, the company's future is mortgaged.
It's like patriotism. There was a groundswell of patriotism right after Sept. 11 - in the United States and all over the world.
But eight months later, that level of patriotism doesn't exist. Somehow, it's back to business as usual, and the fever slowly is diminishing. Let's hope it can be rekindled.
But the manufacturer must sustain its passion for product, and that passion has to last for decades. Those that succeed will continue to lead and attract larger market share.
Others will fall behind. They will miss out on the luster that could have come from a relentless commitment to product.
It's a tough and unforgiving business. Those that search for short-term success are going to be deeply disappointed.